It feels like yesterday when a nightmare became a reality for the New York Islanders and their fans. We can now put the disastrous offseason behind us and get ready for a new season. The biggest question is, what will the team look like when the puck drops in Carolina in three weeks?
Expectations aren’t high for the New York Islanders coming into this season. The team should be competitive on most nights as most guys have a lot to prove.
What remains to be seen is who Barry Trotz will pencil into the lineup on opening night. There are a bunch of guys vying for a limited number of spots so important decisions are on the horizon for the new Isles coach.
So how does the New York Islanders opening night lineup shape up?
Projected Opening Night Lineup
The Isles forward group could best be defined as quantity over quality. What was once a strength, their center core, is now below average. Barzal will center line one and Cizikas presumably on line four. But who will center the other two lines?
The answer will most likely be Nelson and Filppula. Although the wildcards are Jan Kovar and Beauvillier. The latter will be an option depending on what Trotz decides to do with the Beau-Barzal-Eberle line. Trotz should keep the trio together after the amount of productivity together last year. Nelson would then become the 2C and Kovar likely heads to Bridgeport since he doesn’t need to clear waivers.
As for the bottom six, Filppula will center the third line and Ladd will be back on the left wing. Ho-Sang will finally get his chance to prove his worth after starting with a clean slate with the new regime. Then, with Cizikas and Clutterbuck retaining their usual roles, Komarov gets the last spot over Martin simply because of his contract.
Thomas Hickey is back but Calvin de Haan is gone. That leaves the Islanders with six defensemen on the NHL roster as of today. It was recently reported that Dennis Seidenberg and Luca Sbisa are both on PTOs with the team. The pipeline is also filled with defenseman, most notably Sebastian Aho and Devon Toews being the most NHL ready.
The blueline seems pretty set unless some of the younger guys impress the coaching staff in the upcoming weeks. If that happens, I could see someone being traded. Other than that, the only question will be who gets paired with who.
I believe Pulock is ready for a bigger role so he will be on the top pair opposite Leddy. This allows Boychuk to play fewer minutes which could be key in keeping him healthy for the entire season. It also gives Toews a veteran partner on defense.
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Lehner and Greiss are just about a lock to start the season as the goalie tandem for the Islanders. If one of them get injured, then Christopher Gibson, who played well last year, will likely be the first man up. All eyes will be on prospect Linus Soderstrom, who will get his first taste of North American hockey since coming over from Sweden.